Motion formally passed at Oxford UCU General Meeting on 26th January 2021
The Oxford University branch of UCU expresses full solidarity with the National Education Union and other groups fighting to provide school staff – including teachers, assistants, administrators, catering staff and cleaners – a safe environment during this COVID-19 lockdown. Schools in Oxfordshire and elsewhere have been overwhelmed with requests by parents to take students: with many functioning at over 50% capacity. The NEU recommends that schools should be at no more than 10% capacity if we are to meaningfully use this lockdown period to suppress transmission of this virus. School staff have also not been provided with medical grade PPE or given priority for vaccinations: both of which are demands the NEU has made. With COVID rates still as high as 1 in 50, and the National Health Service at breaking point, drastic measures are necessary.
Oxford UCU especially acknowledges the role that universities have played in exacerbating conditions at schools. Oxford University – like many other institutions – has encouraged staff to identify as key workers, and send their children to school, if they are unable to care for them whilst working from home. This approach is damaging to university staff who are given an impossible choice between doing full-time childcare whilst also fulfilling research and teaching duties or sending their children into already-overwhelmed schools at the height of a global pandemic. It also transfers risk to school staff, undermining the goal of the present lockdown. In a university town like Oxford, this further adversely effects the local community, who bear the brunt of this extended COVID crisis and many lockdowns.
Instead, we ask the university to offer the following:
- Workload reductions to all staff who require it
- The option of furlough to all staff who wish to take this up
- Emphasise that ‘key worker’ status should not be used by departments to compel anyone with childcare responsibilities to work at full capacity
- Provide extensions on funding and non-permanent contracts where possible to enable staff to do less during this lockdown period.